Usually, most lawyers agree that there are three qualities needed to run a successful practice: excellent legal skills, great client service and the ability to find and retain clients. There is another variant of an answer as well. They need an ability to attract clients, hard work, and an entrepreneurial mindset. The most challenging is the last one. The problem is that young lawyers receive little or no training in business development. This is what makes, finding a client for example, very challenging for most of them. In reality, most law schools and bar admission programs provide no business training. This is considered as outside the scope of educating students about the law.
Young lawyers are expected to find clients often with minimal assistance from the firm or more senior lawyers which is really not that easy. Some law firms offer business development training. Translating these concepts into action can be an almost impossible task for an attorney who is naturally quiet or introverted. There are many young lawyers who see themselves as being too junior to attract a client.
Young lawyers often must look elsewhere for training in business development. There are firms that put on excellent training programs but this must still be translated into action. Let us say a lawyer is introverted or very quiet. Do you think there can be any kind of training in the world that can move such lawyers out of their comfort zone to pick up the phone or attend a networking event? This is the case when one coaching could be very helpful.
Another variant is to buddy up with another associate to attend events. They can possibly find a mentor (most likely outside their firm) who is willing to offer ideas and support.
Now let us discuss the main challenges that the young lawyers face almost every day.
Learning the law and working very hard would not be enough to become a partner. You have to attract clients. Being a hardworking good lawyer without your own clients means you have almost no chances of becoming a partner. This is one of the main concerns of the young lawyers. You can be really talented and hardworking but unless you have not also developed as entrepreneurs and figured out how to attract and retain clients your future is compromised in private practice.
Let us agree that after all law firms are businesses and each attorney in it must contribute to finding and keeping clients. Of course, this is especially true in larger urban centers where it is more competitive. It is obviously much easier in smaller communities where there is a growing shortage of lawyers and an increasing number of clients.
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Being an introvert
Now let us talk about the biggest challenge for so many younger lawyers. The type of person attracted to study law often lacks the characteristics needed to be a success in business.
It is known that lawyers are typically very academically oriented. Unlike the stereotype found on TV shows most lawyers can read copious amounts of material, analyze it and do well on exams. For many young lawyers joining community groups, working a room at a social event, speaking at a public gathering, making cold calls and marketing can be a very hard task.
Hey, we are not all born with an entrepreneurial gene right? But we can surely develop it if we seek out help along the way.
Business side of practicing law
After the above mentioned rises a question: how can young professionals overcome this hurdle and develop a client base? Young lawyers need to understand the business side of practicing law. This is the first and the most important thing to do. It is a must for them to be able to understand the economics of over-head, the cost of accounts receivables, payroll expenses and a host of other business decisions.
No support from senior lawyers
Usually, most young lawyers starting out often do not even know where to begin the process of finding clients. Who are the ones that should help them out? Of course, the senior lawyers are. So the obvious place for young lawyers to learn is from more senior lawyers who can take them along to client meetings. They can advise how the partner’s practice developed and act as a mentor to help the younger lawyers get started. Sadly, this happens very rarely.
Normally, most senior lawyers are too busy to do more than answer file questions. They consider mentoring as taking away precious billable time from their own practice. And, yes, established practitioners often guard their hard-won clients closely. They do not want the client to develop an independent relationship with the junior lawyer (in case, future work starts flowing to the junior).
Your gender counts
Sadly up till now, there are particular challenges for young women lawyers who must find clients in what is still a largely male business world. Being a skilled lawyer, working hard and giving excellent client service may not be enough for a young woman lawyer to create a sustainable practice. Again and again, the key for many young female lawyers is to work with others who can give advice or support.
Young lawyers development
Of course, attorneys in all stages of their careers face these challenges. Newly qualified attorneys entering the field must differentiate themselves from others in the market. The young lawyers need to develop traits that set them apart from their peers. When first entering a profession all of the above mentioned may not be as easy as it can seem.
Another problem is that the younger generation already has less of a learning curve when it comes to technology. So this challenge will be about finding the best ways to use new technology to their advantage.
It is a great idea for younger lawyers to form peer support groups either inside or outside the firm. They can meet there regularly to support each other and exchange ideas. And yes these groups need not be all lawyers. The main point of this is not struggling with this on your own if your personality or your workload gets in the way of reaching out to potential clients.
Dear young lawyers and not only, be patient and good luck to all of you.